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Georgia’s Stetson Bennett Seizes Chance To Play ‘Hero’ In CFP Championship

Georgia's Stetson Bennett Seizes Chance To Play 'Hero' In CFP Championship

INDIANAPOLIS – Georgian quarterback Stetson Bennett is aware of the thin line between criticism and praise. It’s all part of the job.

Bennett received this criticism after the 41-24 loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship game. He heard the praise after leading Georgia to a 34-11 victory over Michigan in the college football playoff semi-final at the Orange Bowl on December 31. There’s a frustration building up about things Bennett just can’t – or just won’t – say.

“You are the hero or the zero,” Bennett told reporters at the CFP press conference on Saturday. “I’m glad it’s me rather than someone else because I can handle it because I can just turn it off and tell people to go blah, blah.”

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Fill in the blanks on what “blah, blah” might mean ahead of Monday’s college football playoff championship game against Alabama’s No.1 at Lucas Oil Stadium. Bennett could either be the quarterback leading No.3 Georgia to its first national championship since 1980. Or he could be on the losing side of a third start in two seasons against the Crimson Tide.

“Hero or zero”, indeed. The last Georgian quarterback to lead a national championship race was Buck Belue, who is now a radio analyst on Sports Radio 680 in Atlanta. Belue interviewed Bennett before the Orange Bowl game against Michigan and got some interesting information about the Bulldogs starter.

“I think he’s aware that there is a narrative that people want to see (quarterback) JT Daniels,” Belue told Sporting News. “As far as I know, he’s resilient, a tough, determined dude. Stetson is that. In the end, that’s going to help him with this challenge.”

Bennett cleared some doubts with 313 passing yards and three touchdowns against the Wolverines, and his teammates continued to rally behind their quarterback. Tackle Jamaryee Salyer, from Atlanta, said Bennett’s leadership came from this close to home personality without apologizing.

“Country kid, South Georgia kid,” Bennett said. “He’ll be the only kid who walks into the locker room with country music. He’s just Stetson. He doesn’t want to be a person he isn’t. He never will be. I think authenticity who he is and what he represents draws people to him. “

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“He’s gone from QB to the Rose Bowl scout team, and he’s just grinding, working,” added US defensive tackle Jordan Davis. “He is an extremely hard worker.”

Bennett, a two-star high school quarterback, has taken the long road up to this point. He was a quarterback for the Boy Scouts when Georgia qualified for the 2018 CFP Championship game, also against Alabama. He transferred to Jones College in Ellisville, Mississippi, before returning to Georgia. He’s played the role of starter and backup for the past two seasons – an atypical journey for a quarterback playing on the bigger stage.

Bennett chooses his words carefully when discussing these roles within the program. He said “save” was not the right word to describe his experience as a quarterback for the Boy Scout team. He is also “lucky and extremely blessed” to be the starter now. The renowned games against Alabama, Tennessee, Auburn and Michigan led to this moment. He also cited his late grandfather Buddy Bennett, who moved from Stetson University to South Carolina, as a true example of the long road.

“He hitchhiked all the way to South Carolina,” Bennett said. “He was the leader of the ACC rusher. Like I said, people make a big deal out of my trip. I haven’t hitchhiked anywhere. That’s exactly it. what you want to do if you want to play soccer. “

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Of course, the two starts to Alabama in double-billed 41-24 losses in the past two seasons have become the gist. Bennett was 18 of 40 for 269 yards and two touchdowns and three interceptions in 2020. He finished 29 of 48 for 340 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in the SEC Championship game. The inbox for what to do this time around is also full.

What’s the approach now?

“I take it you are going to outdo yourself?” Bennett said Monday. “Are you going to think too much? No. We are not. Obviously when we go out on the field, would I prefer that Alabama, if they change something, send us an e- mail this week? I would love that, but I guess they won’t. “

There’s that touch of country humor in borrowing a line that Alabama coach Nick Saban has used in the past. Bennett, by all accounts, seems poised and ready for this moment, a product of his parents Stetson and Denise’s upbringing. The Georgia quarterback appreciates the trip his parents made to make the opportunity possible, and it helps him cross the line between criticism and praise.

“I don’t want to sound cliché and cheesy, but it does, that inspires me,” Bennett said. “If they can do all of this and be successful, then what’s a little bit of football? “

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